Apart from close relatives, Maureen Kyalya was hardly known in Jinja yet when she presented herself as a candidate for the Jinja district Woman Member of Parliament in 2011, she almost won.
Kyalya had spent a great part of her life living and studying in the United Kingdom. So, few people got to know her in Busoga region where she was born, 41 years ago.
In the 2011 general elections, Kyalya took Jinja by surprise, gaining instant popularity, which made her one of the top contenders for the Woman MP seat.
Kyalya who was the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) flag bearer, lost to the incumbent NRM’s Agnes Nabirye.
Kyalya only joined the race after her (Kyalya’s) mother Irene Wekiya lost the NRM primaries to Nabirye and decided to bow out of the race.
Despite being new on the political scene, Kyalya put up a spirited fight, wowing the electorate with her charismatic style of campaign.
She contested the election results in court but before the final verdict could be given, Kyalya shocked her supporters when she announced she had lost interest in the case.
Shortly after, in July 2012, she was named coordinator of the National Poverty Alleviation Programme in Busoga sub region, working under State House.
“The reason I joined politics was to fight poverty among the Basoga. The President has identified me as one of those who can play a leading role in the fight against poverty. I’m not an opportunist like some people think, I’m just identifying myself with a political system that has the best option to work with the grass root people and fight poverty,” was her response to critics who said she had been compromised.
But soon, Kyalya went on a collision course with sections of people in Busoga, including local council leaders and technical officers, who did not agree with her controversial style of work.
Some criticized her of high handedness and arrogance but she maintained she was focused on achieving her goal-alleviating poverty in Busoga- and that nothing could stand in her way.
Kyalya then clashed with cultural leaders after she got involved in the Busoga Kingdom leadership wrangles. To her, with the exception of Bulamogi chief Edward Columbus Wambuzi, the rest of the hereditary chiefs in Busoga were occupying the seats illegally.
She went on to parade what she called the genuine chiefs in each of the chiefdoms and vowed to ensure they assume power, which further caused disharmony in the kingdom.
Last year after about two years in the office, President Yoweri Museveni recalled her and promised to post her elsewhere, but she left for the UK where she has been living until recently.
Kyalya, who describes herself as an activist for social change, is a lawyer who studied at the University of Portsmouth in the UK. For her secondary education she went to Iganga Secondary School.
She is the daughter of Kanobe Kyalya (RIP) a former Democratic Party stalwart and mayor of Jinja municipality in the 1980s. Her mother Irene Wekiya once represented Jinja in Parliament and currently is Uganda’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.